Hengki Koentjoro is a fine art landscape photographer and Hasselblad brand ambassador based in Indonesia.
What is your background?
I was born in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia.
My first exposure to photography began when I was 11 years old. My parents gave me a Kodak Pocket and I have never looked back since then. This camera helped to jump-start my imagination, which I think is the most important aspect of being an artist in general. I then went to the Brooks Institute of Photography in the United States to study more about black and white photography. Ansel Adams was the first idol that inspired me to do the monochrome world.
With black and white, it gives me the freedom to express my creativity, especially in fine art photography. Ansel Adam’s Zone System has taught me to see black and white in more detail especially with the ability to “play” with the tonality of the medium. It is not only two colours; black and white, but totally different spectrums that consist of infinite shades of greys. This knowledge has allowed me to do many things, in order to create atmospheric photographs that accentuate the mood and nuance.
Why are all your images in black and white?
Black and white photography is classic and timeless. Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna’s work dated back to the 1960s and ’70s but remain fresh to this day. For me, it conveys the feeling/atmosphere of mystic and mystery extremely well. The dark symbolizes mystic whilst the white gives the sense of simplicity and tranquillity that only monochromatic photography can deliver.
What is it like to be a photographer in Indonesia?
I love nature; it helps me regain my sanity. The ocean and mountain, in particular, have those mystic and mysterious values that I deeply value.
Living in Indonesia is a blessing. It boasts 17,000 islands and are known for their “rings of fire” where there are more active volcanoes per island than any other country on earth. I’m blessed with these playgrounds and I’m free to go wherever I please without a problem. It’s only normal that I love landscape photography.
What makes a good photo?
I don’t really know as I do not think about this while taking an image. To me, good photographs are something of a gift from nature. Nature is a great artist and it is up to us to take advantage of it. The more you dwell in nature the more good photos you can achieve. Nature never lets me down.
What is in your camera bag?
I’m the brand ambassador for Hasselblad Company, therefore I have a Hasselblad X1D with 45mm lens. The medium format sensor is amazing and 70% bigger than a regular DSLR so it has better dynamic range and smoother gradation. The resolution and sharpness are also second to none. It is expensive but the quality certainly justifies the final result. I also have a sturdy tripod and an ND filter of 16 stops for long exposure photography.
Who has influenced you the most?
Besides Ansel Adams, another master photographer that has deeply influenced my style is Michael Kenna. His sense of composition is excellent and his ability to create minimalist photography gives the impression that less is more.
I am also inspired by Haiku, short poems originating in Japan, which teach me to be simple and look at this world in the most contemplative way. Haiku is about nature and nature is the place where I seek my freedom, expression and identity.
What advice can you give to others?
Make sure photography is your true passion! Nothing is impossible with passion. Inspiration is very important so find a photographer you like, then copy his/her style so you have a sense of direction or a blueprint to follow. Once you are there, then break some rules to find your own true style.
Can someone with a smart phone take good photos?
Good photos can be achieved by anybody with a tool; it does not matter whether it is a $5 disposable camera, a handphone or $15,000 professional camera. It is who has the biggest passion for photography that counts the most in the end.
What do you do in your free time?
Nothing at all. I’m mastering the art of doing nothing. It sounds easy but actually, it is very hard. Other than that I spend quality time with my three sons and dog.
Download FREE Photography Lighting Cheat Sheet
Subscribe and get a free downloadable photography lighting cheat sheet